Scotland v Russia: What can Steve Clarke's side expect in Euro 2020 test?
|Euro 2020 qualifying: Scotland v Russia|
|Venue: Hampden Park, Glasgow Date: Friday, 6 September Kick-off: 19:45 BST|
|Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland; live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app|
The key fixture has arrived. When the draw was made for these Euro 2020 qualifiers, Scotland's early-autumn Glasgow summit with Russia was always going to provide the answer as to whether the home side stands a chance of automatically reaching a first major finals in more than two decades.
The repercussions of March's calamitous capitulation in Kazakhstan will likely come home to roost on Friday if the Scots don't emerge with all three points.
And even then, at least a point will be required when the nations collide again in Moscow in October, with a better head-to-head crucial between the second and third seeds if they are to finish tucked in behind Belgium - assuming Roberto Martinez's world number ones go on to win the group, as appears likely.
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The better the results at Hampden in this home double-header, the less will need to be plundered at the Luzhniki Stadium, the scene of last year's World Cup final, particularly when you consider the Scots haven't taken a scalp in a meaningful away fixture since beating France in 2007.
And it is with those finals in Russia that the Scots will have fresh memories of what their first opponents over the next few days can achieve.
While Scotland have missed 10 straight major finals, the Russians have become qualifying experts in that time and when they hosted the World Cup, it took a Croatian penalty shoot-out victory to deny them a place in the semi-finals of their own tournament.
While home advantage clearly aided Stanislas Cherchesov's players, former winners Spain were among their conquests as they surpassed even their own expectations.
The Russians made short work of Kazakhstan and San Marino in this group, scoring four against the former and putting nine past the latter, two sides the Scots toiled and then laboured against in the death throes of the Alex McLeish sequel.
But what danger do these serial qualifiers pose Scotland over the next five weeks?
Ones to watch
Former Chelsea and Arsenal target Aleksandr Golovin could be a huge threat. The 23-year-old, who opted to join Monaco after the World Cup in what was a club-record transfer fee and has the potential to be superstar for the Russians in the years ahead. He scored a free-kick and set up two other goals in Russia's opening win over Saudi Arabia in the tournament's curtain-raiser.
Brazilian-born right-back Mario Fernandes has been a bit of a late bloomer after arriving at CSKA Moscow seven years ago. Capped once by Brazil in 2014 in a friendly win over Japan, Fernandes has been the regular right-back for Cherchesov, playing almost every minute of last summer's tournament. He scored the goal that took their quarter-final loss to Croatia to penalties, one of which he would, crucially, miss.
Captain and Group I top scorer Artem Dzyuba has five goals so far, albeit he scored four of them against San Marino. The towering, experienced striker is back at Zenit St Petersburg after a season away on loan at Arsenal Tula. He has scored four goals in the early stages of Zenit's season and has an impressive 20 goals in his 36 caps.